Colorado has some of the most beautiful places to photograph in the United States. I’ve lived in Colorado for the past 16 years and have traveled all over the state photographing its beauty. I figure it would be nice to share some of my favorite locations with you. There’s so many beautiful locations in the state to photograph I cannot list all of him but here are just a few that you may enjoy. If you have a favorite place to photograph in the state Colorado please leave a comment and share it with all.
Garden of the Gods
Since I live in Colorado Springs I will have to pick my favorite local spots. Colorado Springs has many great spots to photograph like Pikes Peak, Queens Canyon and Dorothy falls, Seven falls, Cheyenne Canyon, Helen Hunt Falls, United States Air Force Academy, Pike national Forest and of course my favorite Garden of the Gods. This park celebrated its 100th year as a city park on October 17, 2009. Most people visiting the Garden only see a small portion of the park like kissing camels, balanced rock and the Siamese twins. Living only a few miles from the park I like to get up early in the morning and pick a spot. And just roam around the area and photograph a small part of the park. In my post on this website about Garden of the Gods you can get an idea of what to see in the parts of the park that are seldom visited.
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Aspen Colorado and the Maroon Bells
Aspen is best known for its skiing in the winter time. With ski areas like Aspen Mountain, buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass. But in the summertime is when Aspen really blooms. Around the back streets of Aspen you’ll find beautiful Victorian homes with incredible gardens and manicured lawns. The areas around Aspen are a photographer’s paradise. We try to make it up to this area at least once a year. Our favorite place to stay is the Crestwood condominiums in the Snowmass Village. Taking the road up maroon Creek you will find the maroon bells. The maroon bells are one of the state’s most photographed areas. Maroon Lake with the mountains in the background makes this for one of the best spots. The Aspen area has many great location for other great photographic opportunities like the old ghost town of Ashcroft, the ghost town of independence and the grotto ice caves and waterfalls along the roaring Fork Creek about 8 miles up Independence Pass.
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Crested Butte Colorado
Crested Butte is a small ski town in the wintertime but in the summer time it becomes the wildflower capital of Colorado. There’s so many activities like fishing, hiking, mountain biking, River rafting, art music festivals, Fourth of July fireworks show and of course great locations for photography. Just a few of the area like the beautiful vistas of Lake Irwin, Kebler pass with one of the largest Aspen groves in the state and incredible wildflowers, Slate River Rd with more wildflowers, Washington Gulch Road and did I say more wildflowers, the road to Gothic and the town of Gothic. We like to camp with the group of friends each Fourth of July weekend at the Lake Irwin campground. The campground usually opens around the Fourth of July after all the snowmelts. The campground is located a little over 10,000 feet above sea level. A couple years ago we wanted to camp but the campgrounds closed because of too much snow. There’s a small pond at the North East corner of the campground that is one of my favorite photographic locations in the area.
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This is the old West at its best. This is a small Ranching and farming community with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background. For a short period of Time in the spring Westcliffe has an incredible wildflower show just North and West of downtown Westcliffe. On the outskirts of town there are many small and large ranches with fields of wild Iris. You can drive down any of the country roads outside of Westcliffe and find many opportunities to photograph old barns and farmhouses with many wild Iris and wildflowers with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background.
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Rocky Mount national Park
This is one of my favorite places in Colorado. Since Rocky Mount is such a popular national Park we try to avoid it in the summertime however in the spring and the fall in the winter the park is almost empty. In the fall in late September the Aspen trees are golden and the elk with their huge racks are fencing even around downtown Estes Park. The photographic opportunities are endless. In the wintertime the mountains are full of snow and the lakes are frozen. The views of the snow-covered Bear Lake with the mountains in the background are incredible. This is a great place to bring your snowshoes and cross-country skis. In the spring time amounts are still full of snow and the rivers are starting to flow. The elk graze by the hundreds in Moraine Park.
Lake City Colorado
This is one of Colorado’s hidden treasures. Lake City is a small town about 50 miles south of blue Mesa reservoir and US Highway 50. Take Colorado Highway 149 South’s to Lake City. Highway 149 is part of the silver thread scenic byway. Lake City has many activities including four-wheeling, mountain biking fishing, hiking, camping and snowmobiling in the winter. There are numerous old mining towns up in the mountains along the four-wheel-drive trail called the Alpine Loop. It is a 49 miles round-trip and takes most of the day to complete. The trip requires a four-wheel-drive with high clearance to go the whole way around the loop, but you can go most of the way in either direction of the loop with a standard four-wheel-drive SUV. If you don’t have a four-wheel-drive you can rent a jeep in town that will easily make the trip. Along the trail there are several ruins of old mining towns, a waterfall, beautiful mountain scenery and wildflowers. All magnificent locations to photograph the beautiful back country of Colorado.
On the way south on Colorado Highway 149 from Lake City about halfway to Creeds you’ll find the incredible North Clear Creek falls, this is a great place to photograph. A little further down the road is an overlook of the head waters of the Rio Grande River. The town of Creeds is an old mining town with great old buildings to photograph. At the end of town there is an underground fire station and just passes that the Mining Museum. At the end of town there is a dirt road(bachelor historic loop four-wheel-drive road) that takes you up into the mountain’s that pass many old minds mining shacks and buildings. On the loop you come across the last chance mine. Stop in and see Jack Morris the owner of the mine. It is usually open on weekends in the summer and fall. The views from his porch are incredible. Jack will tell you stories of the old mine and the history of the area. He will also tell you an interesting story on how he acquired the mine. He also has a small outdoor rock shop with many small and large rock samples from the mine and other places for sale. You can also reserve one of the old mining shacks for an evening stay.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
The great Sand dunes are not to be missed. Contrast of the sanding was the snowcapped mountains in the background and the creek that flows in front of the sand dunes make for the perfect photograph. You can climb the sand dunes with the highest dunes being about 700 feet above the valley floor. Spring and fall are the best times to visit this area. Summer temperatures can reach 100° or more.
Just 10 miles east of Glenwood Springs on interstate 70 is the trail head to hanging Lake. The trail is a steep and strenuous 1.2 mile trek up the mountain to hanging Lake. The small lake with cascading waterfalls and crystal clear Caribbean aqua marine waters with large trout. When you finally get to the lake you will think you’re in another world. Because of the high contrast of the Bright water and dark waterfalls, be sure to bring your tripod as this is the perfect location for an HDR (high dynamic range photography) shot.
The town is the location of an old abandoned marble quarry and mill. Marble from this quarry were used to make the Lincoln Memorial , Washington Memorial and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Marble from this quarry is almost pure white. You can walk through the old marble mill. This place affords an incredible photographic opportunity. In recent years the quarry operation has started up again in a small-scale compared to what it was in the past. Mostly for artist and stone carvers. The small community has several artist and galleries. Crystal mill is also located in this area is about two and three-quarter miles past marble up a four-wheel-drive road. The road requires high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle. To get to Marble you head South on Highway 133 from Carbondale. Once you pass the small town of Redstone continue on an additional 5 to 6 miles till you reach the road to marble on the left. Marble is at the end of this road at about 6 miles.
This is just a small sample of the photographic opportunities to be had in Colorado. There are many more fantastic locations in the state. I invite you to leave a comment on your favorite place in Colorado to photograph. So if you’re visiting Colorado or live in Colorado let me know what your favorite places are.
Books and Maps
Colorado Guide, 5th Edition Updated: The Best-Selling Guide to the Centennial State [Bargain Price] [Paperback]
Colorado: Lost Places and Forgotten Words [Hardcover]
Benchmark Colorado Road and Recreation Atlas 3rd edition (Benchmark Maps: Colorado) [Paperback]